MIT researchers envision a future without traffic lights

We have just barely reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes to self-driving cars but researcher's from MIT's "Senseable City Lab" are already preparing the theoretical ground work for one of that technology's biggest implications. Cars are slowly getting more independent of their human drivers and more interconnected with each other as well as other connected devices. In the future, this could translate to a sophisticated system that directs and manages the flow of cars at an intersection, without the use of traffic lights.

Considering how many accidents happen at those intersections, the proposal almost sounds too horrific to be real. However, it could be argued that many if not all of those accidents happen because of lapses in human judgment. Traffic lights are installed to remove some element of human error to some extent. It is, however, hardly the most efficient system.

MIT researchers are proposing a slot-based intersection traffic system instead, where cars cross not based on a timed traffic light but by the availability of a slot across the intersection. The system results in a more consistent flow of traffic instead of one that is predicated on vehicles trying to move as fast as they can.

While almost ideal, it is a system that requires technologies that are not yet in place today.

For one, it will, of course require that self-driving cars, or at least those with very intelligent systems, are the most common form of transportation on the road. Relying on humans to know when to stop and go on a slot-based system is, perhaps, next to impossible. But more than that, it also requires structures that communicate wirelessly with vehicles, relaying traffic situations and informations and controlling when and if they should stop at intersections.

It's going to take more than a few years for these technologies to be in place, not to mention more common, but the seeds have already been planted. Aside from self-driving car efforts from the likes of Google, various companies, both tech and car makers, have started the road towards fitting traffic structures and nearby buildings with wireless technology that would one day talk with these cars and help direct traffic while their human cargo sit back and enjoy the safe, flowing ride.

VIA: Computer World